Improvising With Phrygian - A Simple Technique

A simple, easy to use idea to implement the Phrygian mode when improvising in a major key.

Improvising With Phrygian - A Simple Technique
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I will keep this as short and to the point as possible. In the last month or so, I have been trying to implement the Phyrgian mode into some solos in order to add some uniqueness. So I learned the notes of the phrygian mode, and just tried to play A Phrigian in the key of A. For some strange reason, it just sounded way off. Using the interweb, I searched and searched for some info as to WHEN the phrygian mode should be used. But alas, there was not a single free resource available giving any info on the subject. That is why I made this lesson. It will tell you very simply (if you already know your major scale and phrygian mode) when to implement the mode for very effective, creative soloing. Simply: whatever the 3rd note in the major scale of the key you are in is, that is the key the phrygian scale should be rooted in. For example, in the key of F, the first three notes of the major scale are F, G, and A. Therefore when in the key of F, you will want to use A Phrigian. That is the main gist of it. Very simple. That works all along the neck, in every key. Just use the 3rd note of the major scale to root the phrigian mode. And something really cool I like to do is to start soloing with the major scale, and using the phryrgian mode to connect my solo to the major of the key one octave higher (I would tab this out but not really sure how). And for the people out there who don't know their note names, whatever major key you are in, just move the root up four frets and you will be in prime phrygian position most of the time. Thanks for reading. This is my first lesson so any and all criticism is welcome.

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    BoredHippie
    I get it now. Ignore last post. Strange, I came into this to teach, but ended up learing myself. Much like robin williams. O captain my captain.
    gypsyblues7373
    Simply: whatever the 3rd note in the major scale of the key you are in is, that is the key the phrygian scale should be rooted in. For example, in the key of F, the first three notes of the major scale are F, G, and A. Therefore when in the key of F, you will want to use A Phrigian.
    Ummm. No. Fail. If you're playing "A Phrygian" in the key of F, you're just playing the F major scale. Try resolving to the A. Doesn't work, does it? Even if you're playing the third mode of F, you're still just playing the notes of F major, and in a song in the key of F major, it's gonna be...yep, F major. If you want to play A Phrygian, you need to be in the key of A .
    triface
    It's great that you're striving to help others learn, but this lesson is really just scratching the surface of modal theory. I can't say this is true for you (maybe you know what you're doing, but are just trying to simplify things for people new to modes), but I'm fairly sure anyone doing what you're suggesting will end up just playing in the major scale, not the modes. Even I can't be sure that I know my modes, but I know enough to know that simply starting on the 3rd note of the major scale does not make the melody suddenly phrygian. You're just starting on the 3rd, and will probably end up resolving to the root note, not the 3rd.
    piszczel
    Terrible lesson, clearly the author doesn't know anything about what he's talking about.
    BernayNorwegian wrote: well aren't those the basics of the modes? that phygrian is the 3rd mode? That E Phygrian is in the key of C?
    But E Phrygian is not in the key of C, it's in the key of E. If you have a C major backing, and you play E phrygian over it, it's just gonna sound like C major. If you have backing in the key of E and you play E phrygian over it, it's going to sound exotic and "phrygian". Everything depends on the chord you're playing over.
    BernayNorwegian
    well aren't those the basics of the modes? that phygrian is the 3rd mode? That E Phygrian is in the key of C?
    TheNameOfNoone
    ^I agree, but many people just learn the scales, and don't want to bother themselves with music theory. That's what UG is for.
    rockslide86
    The problem here is that everyone is just telling him he's wrong. others will see this and not know why. The issue at hand is what you make your key centre (i.e. the note that sounds like 'home' and will ultimately want to resolve to.) If you play e 'phrygian' over a C chord then your key centre will be home and you will want to resolve and stop on every c,e and g that is readily available at your fingertips. Instead if you play an Em chord the play the progression, the note C all of a sudden is more repulsive and instead you will want to land on every E, G and B that you come across and pay special attention the the f (b2) degree that sets it apart from every other minor mode and then mr Bored Hippie, you will get your exotic feel that you want
    rockslide86
    *If you play e 'phrygian' over a C chord then your key centre will...* I meant to say over a c chord the your key centre will be C and that is what you will want to resolve to.
    Tiago Sa
    I feel many people have no idea what modes are and what scales are and what they are actually doing with their guitars... :\
    Hydra150
    This is bad and you should feel bad. The author does not know what modes are.
    Hydra150
    BoredHippie, next time you plan on writing an article concerning music theory, create a thread in the MT (Musicians Talk) sub-forum and copypaste the text of the article onto your post. Let the regulars take a look at it and see if there are any errors or things that could be improved. That way the article is better, and it doesn't take the comments section of your own article to explain properly to you the concepts you were trying to teach.
    BSPDelta09
    Actually playing modes is not easy at all. As mentioned before just playing your major scale starting on the third note won't make you play in Phrygian, you'll just end up playing a major scale. Even if you would have put it into beginners section, it wouldn't have been better. Information like these are, why beginners think they play modally when infact they don't. Of course, starting on the third note of the major scale gives you a Phrygian scale, but it depends on the context whether it sounds Phrygian or not.
    Sean0913
    No...not even close...this lesson is no where near accurate. Wow...talk about the blind leading the blind. Enlarge your horizons...buy a book, get a teacher....but by no means should you believe anything in this is correct. I'll give you a spoiler here. I teach this for a living. This is like saying 2+2 is 6. No. If you do what he says, you're merely playing in the Key of F Major because the KEY is F Major...the background chords has everything to do with the sound that scale makes. You could call that scale IN THAT context, "Bob" because it will still only function as an F Major scale. Nothing more...Youve added nothing to it.
    glpledzep145
    why dont you explain to him how instead of telling him how wrong he is. He'll never figure it out this way. You're the guy leading the blind leading the blind right into a brick wall... Let me explain why this article isnt quite correct. In the key of F major, the notes are F, G, A, Bb, C, D, and E. The qualities of these chords are Fmaj, Gmin, Amin, Bb maj, Cdominant (use major if you havent learned about 7th chords yet), Dmin, Ediminished. SO... if you are in Fmaj, chances are the last chord of you Fmaj progression will be Fmaj. In other words, the chord/note that will feel correct will be Fmaj. Try it. Play Fmaj-Bbmaj-Cmaj-Fmaj. You can feel that Fmaj is where it should resolve. Therefore, the Fmaj scale and any of its 7 modes will sound correct! Even though A (the third note of the Fmaj scale) is the phrygian mode of Fmaj! But what if our progression used the same seven chord qualities found in the key of Fmaj but didnt rely on F as the root note or the tonic of the scale. Lets say Amin was our root chord. Lets say the progression goes Amin-Cmaj-Dmin-Amin... If you refer back to the chords of the Fmaj key, you will notice that all of these chords are found in Fmaj, but our progression now sounds like it is in the key of A minor. SO! if we play in A phrygian now (this works because the chords are all found in Fmaj), you will actually hear the phrygian sound. This is because you are playing in Fmaj over an Aminor progression, so naturally, even though you are playing the Fmajor scale, your tendency will be to rely on the A because it will sound better... This method will not work with any progression in Aminor. The chords must be found in the Fmaj scale (at least until you start dealing with chord extensions, but thats a whole other lesson). I know this was wordy, but this is a great lesson if you follow my advice, and not just some guy telling you you don't know what you're talking about.
    glpledzep145
    why dont you explain to him how instead of telling him how wrong he is. He'll never figure it out this way. You're the guy leading the blind leading the blind right into a brick wall... Let me explain why this article isnt quite correct. In the key of F major, the notes are F, G, A, Bb, C, D, and E. The qualities of these chords are Fmaj, Gmin, Amin, Bb maj, Cdominant (use major if you havent learned about 7th chords yet), Dmin, Ediminished. SO... if you are in Fmaj, chances are the last chord of you Fmaj progression will be Fmaj. In other words, the chord/note that will feel correct will be Fmaj. Try it. Play Fmaj-Bbmaj-Cmaj-Fmaj. You can feel that Fmaj is where it should resolve. Therefore, the Fmaj scale and any of its 7 modes will sound correct! Even though A (the third note of the Fmaj scale) is the phrygian mode of Fmaj, we are not in A phrygian, because we are still relying on F as the root note of the progression! But what if our progression used the same seven chord qualities found in the key of Fmaj but didnt rely on F as the root note or the tonic of the scale. Lets say Amin was our root chord. Lets say the progression goes Amin-Cmaj-Dmin-Amin... If you refer back to the chords of the Fmaj key, you will notice that all of these chords are found in Fmaj, but our progression now sounds like it is in the key of A minor. SO! if we play in A phrygian now (this works because the chords are all found in Fmaj), you will actually hear the phrygian sound. This is because you are playing in Fmaj over an Aminor progression, so naturally, even though you are playing the Fmajor scale, your tendency will be to rely on the A because it will sound better... This method will not work with any progression in Aminor. The chords must be found in the Fmaj scale (at least until you start dealing with chord extensions, but thats a whole other lesson). I know this was wordy, but this is a great lesson if you follow my advice, and not just some guy telling you you don't know what you're talking about.
    pinguinpanic
    ^ +1 Not sure if you're a troll or not author, but this will clear up any misconceptions you have if you're not.
    cre789
    as Billy explained I didnt know that a stay at home mom able to get paid $7613 in a few weeks on the computer. have you read this webpage NuttyRichdotcom
    Nitnatsnok
    So this only works for major scales?
    damillion
    Aeolian (minor) is the fifth mode. In the key of C you could use these: C Major D Dorian E Phrygian F Lydian G Mixolydian A Aeolian (minor) B Locrian So try A minor with E Phrygian. Should work, theoretically. You will still want to play an A chord and E chord when switching between though (if you play it over a C major chord it won't really be characteristic).
    Dream Floyd
    Dorian : up 2 half-steps from the major root Phrygian : up 4 half-steps from the major root Lydian : up 5 half-steps from the major root Mixolydian : up 7 half-steps from the major root Aoelian : up 9 half-steps from the major root Locrian : up 11 half-steps from the major root These are just the the roots for the scale positions. Modes are not just scales and shouldn't be treated as such. If you took your time to read any of the 50+ WELL-WRITTEN lessons on modes, this would be common knowledge. I would recommend ZeGuitarist's lessons on modes, but frankly there are enough well-explained, succinct articles on this website that this lesson shouldn't have to be posted.
    BoredHippie
    I guess my fault for not putting this in the "for beginners" section. This was just to tell people who don't know anything of theory (i.e. me) when to use phyrgian mode and sound good. Personally, I dont really care if it's called A Phrygian or F Major Phrygian Mode, all this was about is what sounds good. For ear learners, by an ear learner. I have seen not a single lesson that describes when to use it as simply as this. As I know no theory, I don't know what they mean by saying "it's the third of the scale," and not saying a single thing on subject afterward.
    Hydra150
    This is, however, bad advice for beginners. Beginners need to be taught stuff correctly at the beginning, and confusing them by basically saying that a 'mode' is just another fingering for the same scale is just furthering the misinformation found in so many articles and lessons on modes. It is good advice to tell someone to learn various positions and fingerings for the major scale, but to give them unnecessary and incorrect names is pointless and will only confuse them.
    As I know no theory,
    Here's where you went wrong; When you don't know theory, dont write an article about music theory. Instead, read some articles about music theory.
    xander_c212
    gypsyblues7373 wrote: Simply: whatever the 3rd note in the major scale of the key you are in is, that is the key the phrygian scale should be rooted in. For example, in the key of F, the first three notes of the major scale are F, G, and A. Therefore when in the key of F, you will want to use A Phrigian. Ummm. No. Fail. If you're playing "A Phrygian" in the key of F, you're just playing the F major scale. Try resolving to the A. Doesn't work, does it? Even if you're playing the third mode of F, you're still just playing the notes of F major, and in a song in the key of F major, it's gonna be...yep, F major. If you want to play A Phrygian, you need to be in the key of A.
    he's speaking of keeping a major progression in that key - the fifth chord in a phrygian scale is a diminished one you may want to avoid that.
    xander_c212
    Nitnatsnok wrote: So this only works for major scales?
    It also works for minors by going down a fourth and besides that Phrygian is minor flavoured mode.
    ha_asgag
    The term "mode" has something to do with the RANGE and TONIC of a melody. An E Phrygian lick will have a different characteristic from a C Ionian lick or an A Natural minor lick although all three licks will have the same key signature in music notation - no sharps / no flats.
    ha_asgag
    Here's a list of chords which may be used to create typical E Phrygian chord progressions: ===== Em-F ===== Em-G-F ===== Em-Dm = ==== Em-F-Dm ===== E-F < Note the change from Em to Emaj. ===== Create chord progressions or backing tracks utilizing the above groups of chords and use the E Phrygian mode to improvise over the chord changes.
    METAL JEFF
    shit,just ****ing learn Iron Maiden tunes.It's almost all in A(dorian or aolean)even the power chord progression are.It's real simple if you are writing.Just use the mode as a scale and stay in it,it worked for them for decades.
    xonty
    And for the people out there who don't know their note names, whatever major key you are in, just move the root up four frets and you will be in prime phrygian position most of the time.
    This just makes a major scale thats 4 frets higher. Also, theres tons of lessons on basic modal scales, try a less popular area